2010 Annual Report

When I first started this non-profit in May 2009, the most proffered advice was about how hard it would be to get tax exempt status. That turned out to be the easy part.

In 6 months we received tax exempt status to operate as a community focused non-profit. A fantastic benefit that I hope will bear fruit in the years to come.

The hard part became the most important part: learning how to impact change.

This topic is very controversial in the non-profit world. Some would say that you need a large national issue that can attract great attention,  and therefore great money and volunteers. Others, would say that you have to choose one issue and stick with it, over the years consistently building your reputation, influence, and donor base.

Most of the non-profits you know probably fall into one of these two categories.

Neither worked for me and so I went out searching for an alternative and found a movement instead. One that is fundamentally altering America at a grassroots level with success after success.

At the forefront of this movement is Yvon Chouinard, founder of the clothing company Patagonia. In his book, Let My People Go Surfing, he lays out the mindset, methodology, and most importantly the past experiences (failures) that led him to this way of thinking.

It is a fascinating discussion on business  and I definitely recommend reading the book. Also, if you purchase the book ($10) through the above link, a portion of the sale goes to A Clean Life.

A one sentence description of this method that is so packed with meaning you may have to read it twice:

“We fund at the grassroots level because we believe that action-oriented groups living and working close to the issue are the most effective at fighting for change.”

That’s exactly my focus.

In the upcoming year, we will be taking on local projects, invite in locals deeply involved in those issues, and provide them the support and funding they need to create change. The projects will be short term, although some may take years, because it’s important to have an achievable goal that everyone works, and fights for.

More to come on that to come in the strategic plan, but now time for the financials.

Income Statement

Revenues

$2,179.92 – Received as donations

Expenses

$2,120.26 – Itemized:

  • $750 – IRS fee, formation of a 501(c)3 non-profit
  • $30 – Incorporation Fee in CA
  • $56.14 – purchase website domains
  • $72 – website hosting fees
  • $170 – DC Farmers Markets Brochures
  • $175.43 – outdoor compost, backyard
  • $48.64 – indoor compost, buckets
  • $319 – indoor compost, automatic
  • $113.67 – outdoor compost, for apartments balconies
  • $62 – 6×3 banner of A Clean Life logo
  • $313.38 – event hosting fees, launch party & family/friends event

Assets

$59.66

Taxes

A great benefit to having a small non-profit means not all that much paperwork.

The established tax year for us is from Jun to May, and anytime after June (within 5 months) I submit my tax paperwork to the IRS (a postcard) and the State of CA (a few sheets). It takes no time at all, makes keeping the books simple/easy, and frees me up to get back out in the community.

Conclusion

I kept this post fluid but included all information needed to understand the operations of A Clean Life. This includes our revenues/expenses/assets, tax year, tax information, and operating strategy.

I expect that in years to come writing this won’t be so easy, so I will sign off here and enjoy the ease at which we currently operate.

A Thought on a Pollution Tax

I’ve been thinking for a while about why global warming bothers me so much. You would think that as a “greenie” I would be all over this issue. Instead of proclaiming catastrophe to every new A Clean Lifer I avoid the subject. I have just found that there are so many other pressing issues. Items that are more relevant to everyday life than some future global immolation.

Which brings me to cap-n-trade. A supposed solution to global warming. I’ll just come out and say it: I don’t think its going to work. Not because we don’t need it but because its a bad idea. I like to say a square peg being pushed into a round hole. Here’s why.

The issue at hand is pollution. Companies, people, and governments are polluting (via carbon). This means all of us and we are doing it at an incredible rate. Sooner or later we all going to have to pay for our pollution. Like the smog control issues in Los Angeles, the plastic bag charge in DC, or the brownfield cleanups in New York. For years now we have already been paying for our pollution, just doing so after the fact.

pollution towers

This is where cap-n-trade comes in and attempts to solve the problem. It’s a continuation of after-the-fact, monday-morning-quarterbacking. In essence we know you are going to pollute so let’s create an artificial market so you can buy/sell your pollution “allowance”. We take it for granted that pollution has to happen? If so, we create a fake market, make allowances for pollution, allow people to sell pollution?

Yeah, when you explain it like that it does sound dumb. Even more I would venture that the only reason this solution is being bandied about is because the money from the buying/selling is supposed to go cleaning up pollution or to poorer countries.

Like I said, a dumb idea.

Instead, I suggest we invoke a pollution tax. You pollute you pay for it, upfront. I say we do away with letting companies and people pollute first then pay years later (or not at all). Let’s incorporate the costs into the activity. Like if you want to use electricity then you are going to have to pay for consulting contract to clean-up the power plant and reduce its pollution. The more electricity you use the more you pay.

Here is a perfect example. The city of Alexandria in Virginia has a contract out to clean-up their local power plant. This is to meet EPA standards, state standards, and local pollution concerns. Who do you think is paying for that $80 million dollar clean-up? It is definitely not the previous users of the electricity the plant produced. It is the future users through an increase in the cost of electricity. Basically, we have a system where you can pollute all you want and then let someone else pay to clean it up.

This bothers me deeply because my parents generation has been doing just that. They polluted the hell out of this world and are now bequeathing it to me dirty and I have to pay to clean it up. Thanks.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is impossible. There is no way we know the costs of pollution. Wrong. We know the costs of nearly every type of pollution that humans can produce. We have been cleaning up, litigating, and charging people for years now.

I just think it’s time to start realizing this and doing something about it. We have all we need to stop passing-the-buck and avoid the silliness of cap-n-trade. Problem is people don’t want to actually pay for their own pollution…

Why is that?

The Great DC Bag Experiment

skip-the-bag-web4

Starting January 1 of this year (2010) everybody in the district will be coughing up 5 cents to get a plastic or paper bag from every place that sells food or alcohol. That’s right we’ve reached the point where American laziness is preventing progress and we are switching to forceful laws (aka progressive taxation).

It’s really a test of environmental will which I’m calling the ‘great DC bag experiment‘.  The revenue from the bag tax will go towards cleaning up the Anacostia River. A laudable cause. Even a progressive one. In this day/age when we have given up on our rivers the DC City Council is making a play.

Dig a little deeper and you can find an interesting swirl of facts. Like this being a tax on the poor, avoiding the rich who already own reusable bags. But, the green.dc.gov website shows that over 460,000 reusable bags will be given out. With less that 600,000 people in the district that covers 76% of all residents. Assuming the reusable bags can get to the less fortunate in DC, this is almost a non-issue. There appears to be some enlightened leadership in our DC government (gasp!).

Then we can talk about laziness. Or, better yet, this whole reusable bag thing is an issue of the well off. I mean who among the poor class really cares about spending an extra 2-20$ on a bamboo or recycled plastic bag. I guess it’s time for them to start caring. Their excuse is lack of money. What about the rest of us. Laziness? Habit? Apathy?

Time and time again we are finding that Americans just don’t care. They have given up on their rivers, beaches, bays, and parks. The ease of disposable goods is way to alluring, compared to keeping that reusable bag in ur trunk. Most governments around the country and world are finding themselves with one option. Lawmaking. Force people to develop new habits through taxation, fines, and built-in surcharges.

Take that libertarians. Guess its not possible to be a libertarian and an environmentalist.

The ironic part here is that I’m betting DC residents will now start carrying a reusable bag around to avoid that 5 cent charge. Ironic in that pollution, waste, landfills, global warming, dirty rivers, ruined bays – matter zilch to people. But, charge them a nickel and they act like the world is on fire.

The last thing to point out here is that each place you shop at is now saving money. They need to buy less bags and can add to their profit margins. You can bet they won’t be passing that savings onto us, the enlightened consumer. Better/worse yet the new law pays them one cent for doing nothing except participating. Two cents for offering you a nickel rebate when u bring in a reusable bag. Hmmm…you think that is fair?

All right well I expect to see some grumbling and complaining as our “Skip the Bag, Save the River” law comes into effect. You can bet I’ll be watching for that and to see how this great experiment plays out.